An Air of Optimism
Keith Hamer and Garry Smith share an air of optimism in the hobby community during April, as the new Sporadic-E season approaches
Keith Hamer and Garry Smith share an air of optimism in the hobby community during April, as the new Sporadic-E season approaches. They also offer TV and FM DX reports from Canada, The Netherlands and the UK.
TV Reception Reports
A tropospheric lift occurred on April 19th. From 1900UTC, Stephen Michie (Bristol) discovered Sandy Heath BBC ‘A’ (Channel 27) and ITV/D3&4 (D24) multiplexes. In addition to this, all of the Oxford Standard Definition (SD) multiplexes were present, including the new temporary ‘parking’ Channel (D31), which was introduced while the 700MHz clearance progresses. By the following morning, only the Oxford channels survived.
While checking Band I on the 28th, Stephen noticed that weak line syncs were visible on Channel R2 (69.25MHz). However, these soon vanished.
John Riley (Bedford) explored the 10- and 11m bands, to celebrate the onset of the new Sporadic-E season. On the 22nd, he identified Spain, Italy and Cyprus. Unfortunately, Band I remained inactive.
In early April, Gösta van der Linden (Rotterdam, Netherlands) noticed images on Channel E2 (48.25MHz). Gösta is certain that the signal originated from a local pirate station, rather than leakage from a distribution system because all nearby cable systems are completely digital.
Over the decades, many pirate stations have operated in The Netherlands. One typical station was TV Heerhugowaard, airing on Channel E36, from Heerhugowaard (Fig. 1).
More recently, Gösta spotted L1 Limburg showing a temporary fault caption, based on the famous Indian Head test card (Fig. 2).
FM Reception Reports
A tropospheric lift on the 8th opened up the FM band for George Garden (Inverbervie, Scotland) with reception still around on the following day. The most distant signal identified was Classic FM on 101.5MHz from Tacolneston, much of it over a sea-path.
Wesley Colaers (Vancouver) brought us up-to-date with news from Canada. He recently received KDMD-LD on Channel A6 (83.25MHz), a low-power digital terrestrial relay station with 3kW Effective Radiated Power (ERP) from Tacoma, Washington State.
Some high-power analogue TV transmitters still exist in Canada, including CHAT-TV, Medicine Hat and Alberta on Channel A6 with 58kW ERP. According to a CRTC (Canadian Radio-Television Commission) decision in 2009, CHAT-TV is not obliged to broadcast digitally since the Medicine Hat region is not a mandatory market for digital conversion. The station may never convert to digital but UHF Channel A40 has been reserved just in case.
In British Columbia meanwhile, low-power analogue relays remain on the air, for example, the CKPG Prince George and Prince Rupert transmitters. Wesley received strong and clear tropospheric signals from CKPG-TV on Channel A2 (55.25MHz) with 8.3kW ERP from Prince George at a distance of 480km (Fig. 3).
In Ontario, CIII-TV-2 still operates on Channel A2 (55.25MHz) with 100kW ERP from Bancroft, while CITO is using Channel A3 (61.25MHz) with 100kW ERP.
In the East, some lo-band (Band I) analogue stations are still operational in Nova Scotia, for instance, CJCB, Channel A4 on 100kW and New Brunswick (CKLT-TV-1, Channel A3 with 19kW).
During a busy Sporadic-E opening, there can be a plethora of incoming ‘goodies’. Not only remaining analogue Band I TV and ‘normal’ FM signals are encountered but throughout Band I (40 to 70MHz) there are also STL (studio-transmitter-links) transmissions, which are extensively used by many countries, especially Italy.
The former OIRT FM band (65.84 to 74.00MHz) is still in use throughout Russia and some Eastern European countries; it readily becomes alive during openings from the East.
The 6- and 4m amateur bands also provide intriguing reception possibilities, not to mention the various data transmissions and other miscellaneous users occupying the lower Band I frequencies.
In the case of TV reception, picture quality can range from stable, perfectly watchable, images to ones with lots of ‘ghosting’, depending on the reception path (Fig. 4). Before the demise of analogue broadcasting, several stations could battle on the same channel thus making any chances of identification difficult. Nevertheless, this could be a challenge.
These days, solitary signals are more likely to be present. During some of the more turbulent openings, a station may be replaced by a more-distant one, sometimes temporarily. This is probably the best time to be on guard for the more elusive signals, which may emerge, sometimes only for seconds.
Signals on the FM band tend to be less volatile with slower fading (similar to tropospheric reception) but strengths can be sufficiently high enough to override local broadcasts.
Roger Bunney (Romsey) comments that at 53°E (Express AM-6) there are nearby satellites Al Yah 1 at 52.5°E and TürkmenÄlem at 52°E, which can all be received on one dish setting. The Turkmen craft carries lots of content from Turkmenistan, a country that borders the eastern side of the Caspian Sea (Fig. 5).
Closer to home, a test pattern displaying the identification STV WEST (Scotland) was received from an Outside Broadcast (OB) van via Intelsat 10-02 at 1°W (Fig. 6).
Roger noticed another OB unit and identified it as STV EAST with feeds from the east of Scotland, including Aberdeen.
The HD+ digital packet via Astra at 19.2ºE on 10.802GHz (SR 22.000, FEC 3/4, MPEG-4 DVB S-2 8PSK) now includes the unscrambled shopping channel, QVC Plus HD.
In the same packet, three of the eight television channels are currently unscrambled. All the other channels are encrypted using Nagravision, Mediaguard and Viaccess.
Some of the items which initially appeared on our original DX-TV and Test Cards websites can now be accessed as a PDF (portable document format). Check out: www.dx-tv.fsnet.co.uk – hs publications scribd
Keep in Touch!
Please send your TV and FM reception reports, news, comments and photographs by the end of the month to Garry Smith, 17 Collingham Gardens, Derby DE22 4FS. Our e-mail addresses are at the top of this column.
This article was featured in the July 2018 issue of Radio User